Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
My husband and I moved into our current residence about 11 years ago, and with the slightly less than a half-acre property came a blank slate in which to add landscaping, a veggie garden and whatever else we wanted to do within the confines of our city’s municipal code. About a year or so after we moved in we had a 120 square-foot shed built (the largest we could have without a building permit) to store and protect our assortment of gardening equipment and other yard essentials. What the area needed from an aesthetics point of view was some kind of plants around the exterior and base of the shed – some shrubs that did not need a lot of maintenance or water, could handle the sandy, alkaline desert soil, and was fairly fast growing. What I ended up choosing were five Tuscan Blue Rosemary plants.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), a member of the mint family, is a native plant of the Mediterranean region and comes in both upright and prostrate forms making it great as a shrub or groundcover depending on what is needed. Tuscan Blue is a variety of the upright form. Rosemary is evergreen, quite fragrant, has needle-like leaves, and clusters of small flowers in pink, blue, white, or purple depending on the variety or cultivar (guess what? Tuscan Blue has blue flowers).
As it turns out, Rosemary is not only aesthetically pleasing and low maintenance, it also offers a number of other desirable qualities – here are a few of them:
Low-Water Use / Drought Tolerant
I only water the Rosemary via a drip irrigation system with 4-gph emitters, which runs about once per week for about an hour and a half. This is especially good with the current California drought and recent state-wide water restrictions.
Desert Soil Tolerant
Rosemary grows very well in our native desert soil, meaning I don’t have to add any amendments or fertilizers – saving money for these products as well!
Heat, Cold, and Wind Tolerant
The High Desert climate can get fairly hot in the summertime – I’ve seen it as high as 117 degrees F, although normal summer temperatures are in the upper 90s and low 100s. Winters can get chilly – usually down into the 20s, but often enough into the upper teens, and rarely into single digits. Wind happens in the desert a lot, and this time of the year it seems to be non-stop! Whether it is hot or cold, wind can be drying to many plants, but Rosemary isn’t phased at all.
Attractive to Honey Bees
The flowers of Rosemary are very attractive to honey bees. The fact that it blooms in late winter and early spring is a great way to provide bees with nectar during a part of the year where few other flowers are available other than my fruit trees.
My Ducks Love It
About five years ago I acquired a couple of female ducklings. Ever since they have been old enough to lay eggs, their favorite nesting spot has been under one of the Rosemary plants. It provides awesome cover and shade, and an added bonus is that the ducks smell really good.
My Chickens Don’t Eat It
When I started acquiring chickens about five years ago, it didn’t take long to discover that they will devour almost anything that grows – great if what they are eating are weeds, not so great when the plants are part of your landscape or garden. Evidently Rosemary is one of the few plants that is not on the preferred chicken diet. The chickens do occasionally lay eggs along with the ducks under one of the plants.
Rosemary is an herb, and with five large plants, I have an almost unlimited supply to cook with. A little bit can go a long way though. It goes great with chicken, and potatoes. One of my favorite ways to use Rosemary is with my own recipe for
1. Place the Rosemary sprigs and garlic under the skin of the chicken.
2. Place the lemon or lime slices inside of the chicken cavity.
3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Place the chicken in a crockpot/slow cooker and set it on low. I usually cook the chicken all day – 8 or 9 hours more or less.
According to a number of websites, Rosemary, which is high in iron, calcium, and vitamins B6 and E, has many antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that may lower the risks of stroke, Alzheimer’s, ALS, breast cancer and leukemia, skin damage, memory loss, asthma, liver disease, heart disease, and type II diabetes. It may also help to enhance memory and concentration, regulate menstrual cycles, ease cramps, lower blood sugar, increase blood pressure, treat migraines, stimulate sexual organs, improve digestion, and stimulate the appetite.
It is advised to use Rosemary sparingly and get advice from a qualified doctor. According to an article in Medical News Today, Rosemary, in high doses, can cause miscarriage, and it can affect some medications such as anticoagulant drugs, ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and lithium. High doses can also trigger side effects like vomiting, spasms, coma, and pulmonary edema.
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